Updated: Nov 14, 2021
In this excellent video from Breakpoint John Stonestreet discusses Trees in the Bible.
For ye shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Psalms 19:1 KJV
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
Do you have cabin fever and or burned out by zoom and the internet, then go outside and look up at the trees?
Nature (God) makes reality real. Trees and grass and oceans work and hum along in God’s grace doing what they were created to do. We tend as humans to assign human characteristics to things but the actual providential life of God’s ongoing care that moves through the world is so much more than that.
Science confirms God’s creation when it can discern it.
Tree whisperer Peter Wohlleben, a German forester, and author of The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate understands the inner life of trees, and can describe it in understandable, evocative language. Wohlleben has devoted his life to the study and care of trees. He manages a local forest as a nature reserve, and lives with his wife, Miriam, in a rustic cabin near the remote village of Hümmel.
One recent discovery is that trees of the same species are communal and will often form alliances with trees of other species. Forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships, maintained by communication and a collective intelligence like an insect colony. These soaring beautiful columns of living wood draw the eye upward to their outspreading crowns, yet the real action is taking place underground, just a few inches below your feet.
“Some are calling it the ‘wood-wide web,’” states Wohlleben. “All the trees here, and in every forest that is not too damaged, are connected to each other through underground fungal networks. Trees share water and nutrients through the networks and use them to communicate. They send distress signals about drought and disease, for example, or insect attacks, and other trees alter their behavior when they receive these messages.”
Scientists call these mycorrhizal networks. The fine, hair like root tips of trees join with microscopic fungal filaments to form the basic links of a network, that seems to operate as a symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi. The fungi in return consume the sugar that trees photosynthesize from sunlight. The sugar is what fuels the fungi, while they search the soil for nitrogen, phosphorus, and other mineral nutrients, which are then absorbed and consumed by the trees.
Tree communication also seems to control how the trees reproduce. Amazingly trees have complex systems to actively avoid the dangers of inbreeding – either by having their seeds carried far away or by limiting when and how their male and female blossoms appear. Other trees don’t produce their nuts every year in order to ensure that the animals who feed on these seeds don’t know when they will be available – insuring that some of the seeds will germinate instead of being digested by animals.
I cannot but help think of Treebeard from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
We may live in a post-modern, post-truth era, but Gods world does not. Gods providential care and sustenance of the world does not care about our politics or our economy. God’s natural world does not discriminate as all of us, every human is subject to gravity and all the many dangers and benefits. Nature is not subject to our subjective wishes about what it is or is not. Animals are wild and they will hurt, kill, and eat people. It was once said that the reason animals growl at us is we have a disagreement with their maker!
Wohlleben also claims that trees have a level of intelligence and the ability to feel pain. The book aptly compares trees – the oldest living organisms on earth – to elephants a long-lived and surprisingly sentient creature. Like all highly social mammals’ elephants have a well-developed system of communication that makes use of all their senses - hearing, smell, vision, and touch - including an exceptional ability to detect vibrations.
“Acoustic communication takes a look at sound production and hearing in elephants; chemical communication explains how elephants use various secretions and their acute sense of smell to communicate; visual communication looks at how elephants make use of postures and displays and their sense of sight in communication; tactile communication describes how elephants make use of their sense of touch to communicate.
At one end of the spectrum elephants communicate by rubbing their bodies against one another, at the other end they may respond by moving toward the sounds of other elephants calling, perhaps 10 kilometers away. They convey information about their physiological (e.g. sexual/hormonal, body condition, identity) and emotional state (e.g. whether they are fearful, playful, joyful, angry, excited) as well as communicating specific "statements" about their intentions or desires. In this section we look at how elephants use the different pathways of communication and the actual mechanics of communicating.” From the website: Elephantvoices
We should stop our rush to the marketplace and look at trees and other living things with more respect and understanding.
Today’s excess of digital stimuli causes our brains to become overwhelmed as it filters and sorts through the excess of information. Being outside in nature, in stark contrast, gives us fewer choices, allowing the brain’s attentional system to function better in higher order things like deep thinking and reflection.
Go outside and take a break and thank God for the beauty of the World!